This one has some neat elements to it. There’s the obvious connection to standing on the brink of insanity and stepping over the edge. Moon, lunar, craziness. Very obvious. The protagonist, William, is very close to that edge. He’s pushed there by his tyrant of a father and unsupportive and completely favored twin brother. William, through his thoughts and actions, drops small hints of his own instability as the story progresses and at the end, he finally loses his grip on reality.

Sorta neat. Definately me the author living through someone else and losing my own grip on reality. ‘Cause I really can’t. At the same time, there’s a certain amount of freedom to it.

Least till you get caught.



Chasing the Moon

They always ran around the field clockwise before every game. Then they would run up through the middle of the field and back again. The ritual was theirs, and the team never departed from it.

Late from an exam, William was behind the rest. As they talked around the dugout, William made his run, his obeisance to the baseball gods, making sure they were satisfied with his purification. He wasn’t even breathing hard when he got to the dugout. As the other still talked, he checked the list of starters and positions: apparently he wouldn’t be breathing hard for the entire game. Again, he wasn’t starting. His senior year, and still he wasn’t started. He knew he wasn’t a bad player.

He sighed. Another player punched him in the shoulder.

Nick said, “Let’s go. We’re warming up.”

They continued their ritual, warming up their arms, then William missing one of Nick’s high throws, the ball sailing over William’s head and into the middle of the outfield. The grass had filled out into lushness by then, mid-April, and he wanted to take off his shoes and socks and run barefoot through it, like he’d done as a kid, just after the sun had dropped below the horizon. A lot of things he’d done as a kid he’s like to have done again. Mostly, it was to regain the ignorance of who won or lost, who started or stayed on the bench. Being young was all about being stupid and happy.

William reached over and picked up the ball, glancing over in the direction of the bench. The coach glared at him from his seat. Frustrated, his stomach churning at the coach’s disappointment, he planted his left foot and threw the ball towards Nick as hard as he could, not caring if he pulled a muscle or not. Like it mattered anyway. The ball smacked solidly into Nick’s glove, his face showing the shock at the force behind the throw. William trotted back.

The coach whistled them over, telling them–redundantly, since they’d all checked the lineup–their positions. He sent the starters out to their positions and the four benchwarmers to collects the stray baseballs. Coach Ryan Lord ran his team as ritualistically as the team ran themselves. Coach Lord worked the infield methodically, hitting three grounders to each base in quick succession. The ball-collecting finished, William and the three other bench-warmers watched the warm-up from just in front of the dugout area. Coach Lord began hitting fly balls to the outfield, where William played when occasionally given the chance.

One ball was hit too hard and the wind picked it up and kicked it out, carrying the ball further past the frantically running outfielder, who was Aaron, William’s twin brother.

“Morgan!” the coach yelled, “You should’ve had that!”

“Aw, c’mon Coach. Even if God himself had been out there He couldn’t have caught that,” William said.

“That’s because the Lord is at bat,” said Coach Lord as he hit another ball to the outfield. He smiled as William and the others groaned and rolled their eyes at the pun.

“Morgan,” Coach Lord said, addressing William.

He jumped slightly. “Coach?”

“Run out there and take Aaron’s place.”

“Yes, Coach.” He ran out there, a thrill going through him at the thought of playing. As he passed Aaron, he glared at him, and Aaron glared back. His brother gone, William loved the outfield. Way out from the infield, he couldn‚Äö√Ñ√¥t really hear anything shouted at him by the coach. So if Coach Lord yelled at him for screwing up, William could just nod, shuffle his feet a bit, and feign ignorance. He never had to do anything unless he felt that it was correct for him to do.

Like his brother before him, William got hit a ball that sailed way out over his head. He took off after it, leapt forward and up. The ball tipped the edge of his glove and kept going, and he fell to the ground, onto the soft grass. He laid there, listening to the coach yell at him for not immediately getting up and chasing down the ball, even if he had “Broken a leg!” like Aaron would do.

“Bring it in,” Coach Lord finally said, giving up on William. He got up and trotted in. The coach gave him another pep talk, the starters went to their positions, and the game began. William took up his customary position: right center bench. William had done this since he started playing in Little League: watch his brother start, their father, David, cheer for his brother, and the coach yell at him and bench him for any misdemeanor. Then his father would stop watching Aaron after the fifth inning or so, and unceremoniously make William go home since he wasn’t doing anything useful. There were always the mindless chores at home that only William had to do.

The fourth inning came. William sighed and clapped his hands unenthusiastically as another double was hit by the star freshman. A non-starting freshman, sitting next to him at left center bench, tapped him on the shoulder. “Morgan,” he said.

William turned. “What?”

The kid chucked his thumb behind the dugout. “Your dad.”

“Oh.” William frowned. “Doesn’t he want Aaron?” He could hope.

The kid shook his head. “Nope. You.”

“Oh,” he said again and got up. No hope for him.

David stood there, as tall as his boys, proud and strong.

“Dad,” William said.

“We can leave,” David said.

William blinked. He felt his insides turn to ice. “What?”

“We. Can. Leave. Now.”

He felt sick now. “I’ve got three innings left, Dad.” Idly he motioned toward the field, where the teams were exchanging positions.

“You’re not playing. You’re not doing anything, you never have. You can just leave.” David’s eyes didn’t leave William’s. The seriousness frightened William more than anger could or did.

His stomach did jumping jacks. “I could play. I played last game.”

“For an inning.”

“This is my teach. I can’t just leave them.”

“You’re not of any use to this team. They wouldn’t miss you. I’ve got better things to do than to wait for you to stand or run around in a field of grass and never come close to a baseball for an inning.”

But David would watch Aaron in all of his all-day double-elimination tournaments. William’s face warmed, he looked at the ground, glancing out the corner of his eye, hoping no one was watching. Of course, the entire bench was, but according to his father, they didn’t matter anyway. They weren’t important, they were expendable. If they wanted to, they could sacrifice them to baseball gods or something, and like his dad said, they wouldn’t even be missed. It was always Aaron. Aaron who got their dad’s old broken in glove, William who got the discount special.

When he was little, he never argued. He just meekly get in the car and let his father drive him home, the entire trip spent in silence. At home, William would be given that meaningless chore, like moving rocks or a woodpile.

He looked up again, back into his father’s eyes. “Fine, I’ll leave.”

So he left. Left the field, leaving his brother and father and coach and co-benchwarmers behind, running through the grass of the football fields, wishing he could take of his shoes and go back to being little. He stopped running once he got to the woods and sat on a rock.

He didn’t do anything but sit, think, and wait. They’d find him. He wasn’t important, but they wouldn’t let him get away. That was the best part of the punishment: he’d never get away. He thought and prayed, looking for a solution. The afternoon waned, then Coach Lord found him. William felt the anger before he looked up. His stomach grew wings again and took off again, making him grimace.

“You have to go back to your father, Morgan.”

“I don’t want to.”

“It’s not a matter of want. You are going back.”

William looked up at the force of the voice. “Coach?”

“Boy, you do what your dad says. Walk with me to my truck and I’ll bring you home.”

William couldn’t bring himself to fight the fire in his coach’s eyes, so he went with him in silence. Coach Lord dropped him off at his house. “Morgan,” Coach said.

“What?” William said, sounding much angrier than he meant. He could see his father in the kitchen and his brother playing basketball next to the garage.

“Don’t bother coming to practice anymore. You’re father was right. You’re off the team,” Coach Lord said, and drove off.

William stood there, not knowing how to react. His dad was always right. He was nothing. His stomach still flew about. Taking a deep breath, he headed into the house. At the door, he stopped and glanced at Aaron. His brother stared at him.

“You’re in trouble,” Aaron said.

“Like I didn’t know.”

Aaron shrugged noncommittally. “Thought I’d tell you.”

“Thanks.”

Aaron turned and shot again. “Didn’t say I did it to help.”

William ignored him and went into the house.

His mother was nowhere to be seen, but his father waited at the kitchen table. “You disobeyed me,” he said.

“You told me to leave. I left.”

David pointed toward the backyard. “I want that woodpile next to the house.”

William looked: a cord, maybe two. “And I’m moving it?”

“Even if it takes forever. Get going. Now.”

So as Aaron played ball, William stacked the wood against the house. He placed log after log, the large pile giving the illusion that it grew no smaller. Darkness fell and the moon came out long after Aaron had gone inside. Aaron, William thought. Somehow Aaron looked better in their father’s eyes, the eyes of their god. In baseball, they followed the same ritual, but one was favored over the other: Aaron over him. At home, the same thing happened. Their father had been good at baseball, even played a couple of years in the minors. That’s why Aaron had been given their father’s glove. He showed talent promise where William showed hopelessness and disappointment. And now William would never play baseball again. He’d lost the chance to gain approval from his father.

Then it came to him.

The rest of his family had gone to bed. Without a backward glance to the wood that remained, William selected three good logs and some kindling. Downstairs, in the woodstove he made a good fire, constructing it like his dad had taught him. From Aaron’s bag he’d taken their father’s glove.

He studied it, running his fingers over the seams, putting it on and placing his fist in its well-made pocket. Then he took it off, opened the woodstove door, and tossed it in. He closed the door and went outside, back to the woodpile. Smiling, he looked at the hill of wood lighted by the moonlight. Then he bent, took of his shoes and socks, and ran through the grass, the dew wetting his feet and the moon shining on him.

End.